Kentucky pulls inmates out of privately-run prison

By Brett Barrouquere
Associated Press Writer / June 22, 2010

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LOUISVILLE, Ky.—Kentucky has pulled its inmates out of a privately run prison in the eastern part of the state because of what state officials describe as budget concerns, leaving only out-of-state inmates at the facility.

The last Kentucky inmates at the Lee Adjustment Center in Beattyville left the facility June 14, said Lisa Lamb, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Corrections.

"It's part of our effort to reduce our financial burden," Lamb said.

The prison, owned and operated by Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corp. of America, houses about 560 inmates on contract for Vermont, which uses out-of-state prisons to alleviate overcrowding.

The decision to remove inmates from the Beattyville prison saves Kentucky $43.62 per inmate per day. The facility has held up to up to 540 Kentucky inmates at one time, but the figure has fluctuated.

In May, Kentucky lawmakers passed a $17.3 billion, two-year budget, overcoming a projected $1.5 billion shortfall caused by the severe economic slowdown that has reduced state tax receipts. Under the plan, most state agencies face cuts of 3 1/2 percent in the first year and 4 1/2 percent in the second year.

Heather Simons, a spokeswoman for the Vermont Department of Corrections, said that state's contract with CCA runs through June 30, 2011, and pays the company $61.50 per inmate per day.

"We currently don't have any plans to move them," Simons said of the inmates.

CCA also owns two other prisons in Kentucky. The state recently removed all female inmates from the CCA-owned Otter Creek Correctional Complex in Wheelwright after allegations if inappropriate relationships between staff and inmates and sexual abuse by staff. The third prison, the Marion Adjustment Center, is in St. Mary in the central part of the state.

CCA spokesman Steve Owen said some of the inmates from Lee Adjustment Center were sent to Otter Creek, once that became an all-male prison. Lamb said some of the inmates were transferred to Otter Creek, while others went to Northpoint Training Center.

"Wherever there was an open bed," Lamb said.

CCA would be interested in housing more out-of-state inmates in Beattyville, Owen said.

"While we anticipate that Vermont may utilize the newly available capacity at LAC, we cannot speak for our government partner," Owen said.

Simons wasn't sure if Vermont would put the new open beds in Kentucky to use.

Lee Adjustment Center, which opened in 1990 and was purchased by CCA in 1998, held up to 540 Kentucky inmates at times since it has been open. In 2009, the Kentucky inmate population at the facility dipped to 63, but jumped back up to 212 following a riot in August that left part of the state-owned Northpoint Training Center in tatters.

"We had been reducing our reliance on them prior to the riot," Lamb said. "That was one of the main places that held inmates for us since the riot."

In 2004, Vermont prisoners were involved in what was described as a riot at Lee Adjustment Center. In that case, the prison warden was later removed and the state of Kentucky recommended a $10,000 fine against CCA for not properly training and equipping prison staff to respond to such incidents.

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